Creed II is the heart-punching father figure family drama of the year. I was on the edge of my seat, not just because Michael B. Jordan was glistening the whole time, and thank you to the filmmakers for making that possible. Each shining shirtless match, vigorous training session, I understood more how his body works…phenomenal. Excuse me, let me get back to the film.
The second part of the Creed saga has a different style but stays true to the budding Creed brand. This film, executive produced by Ryan Coogler but not directed, does not have the Coogler stamp on it as the first film did. In the first Creed, we had those moments of iconic imagery that Coogler loves to do. Scenes that gave an authentic feel of the culture of the city surrounding Creed and all those unique styles that Coogler brings.
This time around we got a classic boxing film, shots, camera angles, and scenes classic to the boxing film genre. This is not to say director Steven Caple Jr. did a bad job–not in the slightest. In fact, I think Caple did a great job! It took the classic approach, with great writing and a story that we all know brings the drama. This time around the style truly fit within the Rocky brand in this new Creed format. Almost directly playing homage to the first films, there were moments that harken back to exact scenes from Rocky. These moments, whether it is in Rocky telling a story or in the clothes Bianca, Tessa Thompson’s character, is wearing, you were taken back to those first films in a current new skin. I half expected him to scream “Adrian!” Which if I think back, I feel like he did say Bianca, maybe not screaming it.
Speaking of Bianca, we get to dive deeper into their relationship as one does in a Rocky film, because it’s not about Rocky or Creed it’s about the people in his life that make the man and make the movie.
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WOOOOOORRRRLD!
We begin the film with Creed preparing for what looks like a real professional match, a big difference between the first film and this moment. Creed has a team around him, shiny boxing shorts, lots of people, photographers, and of course his partner side by side, Bianca played again by Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok). You can already see that since the last film, he has become legit famous (besides being the son of Creed.) In sign language, Bianca asks him if he’s taken a Sh#*t – which we remember was his nervous ritual before a fight and also reminds us of Bianca’s hearing disability. Rocky of course reprised by Sylvester Stallone, then comes in coaching him and almost in a fantastical way makes you think – is he even really there? Did they do it? Is Rocky dead!!? Well I guess you know that he is not, what kind of movie reviewer would I be to spoil that big of a plot twist! No, Rocky is real he is there hyping him up and keeping Creed’s head in the game. This whole scene was probably the cleverest way to say ‘previously on Creed.’
We’re in a large venue, obviously Vegas, and we see Creed coming out to some baller music with his entourage and photographers all around him very…..ummmm commercial I guess. At this same time, we see juxtaposed another boxer, very large, white, with cold eyes training and getting ready in a desolate situation. I don’t say that because I know it is Russia, but literally you know they are trying to show us the stark differences between their lives. This worked well in setting the scene, be it predictable, it in no way changes how you feel when you are seeing it.
Without giving too much away and keeping myself from giving a play by play, which I would do and do well, especially when I like a film, I am going to give my honest take on some of the things I loved.
ROUND 1: THE FAMILY
You will see throughout the film the average Rocky boxing tropes: the strong partner influence, the training father figure, the controversial match, the thrilling outcome. I was along for this safe ride and enjoyed every bump and hill I saw coming. Tessa Thompson’s character Bianca showed a growth, and their relationship had some classic changes. I was in love with their dynamic, it was Creed focused, but I felt in a way that still showed Bianca as her own individual, not sidekick or ancillary, but two wholes moving as one supporting each other. You don’t see this upfront but several scenes and conversations between the couple give this feel and setting. Who doesn’t love to see growing, changing, and evolving black love – ugh! It was lovely to see. There is one walk out scene that will make everyone booed up in the audience feel motherf*$#%ing proud to be in partnership – they really honor each other, even after some rocky moments (eh!) Plus, the family dinner scene with Mother Creed, Mary Anne Creed, played by Phylicia Rashad (Empire) is to die for.
ROUND 2: THE OPPONENT
This was the moment we were waiting for. These movies are always put together like real boxing matches, what the audience really wants to see. Again, predictable as it may be, I enjoyed every moment. We see fight manager, Buddy Marcelle played by Russell Hornsby (Grimm) scoping the heavyweight championship fight with Creed and also traveling half across the world scoping Drago’s fight. You see the wheels turning, and you know Buddy will be Drago’s way of getting the fight with Creed. The relationship between Ivan Drago, Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables) and his son Viktor Drago played by real MMA fighter Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu is strained but you can feel the determination in both of their eyes. They legit do not speak one word in the entire first scene we are introduced to them. Heck, I don’t think they speak until like half way through the movie! Basically, we see the aftermath of Drago losing to Rocky and what the driving force really is for Viktor Drago to fight. You also see Viktor Drago’s body and think DAYUM – Creed needs to get swole if he wants to compete. I actually didn’t know who to root for in all of this as their backstories were both pulling my heartstrings.
ROUND 3: DADDY ISSUES
This was a father-figure film through and through. This sounds like – well of course Creed is fighting the son of his father’s killer. But beyond the plot, the relationship between Creed and Rocky gets tested through it all. We knew from the first film that Rocky becomes a mentor to Creed, and Creed coins the nickname Unc as Rocky is an uncle to him. This film, he becomes the father which you feel kinda strange about since Rocky is a father, and they speak several times about his not going to see his own son and grandson. You think, dang you really out here for Creed and you got a whole-ass live son and grand kid you don’t see. We needed the closeness of Rocky to build character for Creed in this new challenge in his life and career. It made sense and fit the boxing film structure. I don’t want to give much away, but Creed ad Rocky have that parent-son fight where the parent knows what’s best, but has to be the bigger one and accept the son’s decisions because you know – they are an adult now…
This was different for the Drago’s. They lost a lot and need boxing to get it all back. It’s the “he has nothing to lose” drive. But you see, at what cost to the father-son relationship. It even gets real with mommy issues that have you clutching your pearls. And Bridget Nielson reprises her role as Ludmilla Drago, too!
ROUND 4: KNOCKOUT!
The boxing was not shot in a remarkably different way than other boxing films, and the matches pumped up with good music, strong presence and ego – what would boxing be without ego. I for one do not like boxing (I know what am I doing reviewing this movie? Ehum – did I mention glistening Michael B Jordan?) I respect it as a sport, the skill and mastery it takes to box is something to appreciate. I can’t stand the beating the Sh#$t out of each other for money. I don’t get squeamish at blood, violence any of those things, but boxing is the exception. The hitting and busting open eyes, lips all that jazz, I don’t see the purpose, and I can literally feel the pain through the screen, and this is what these fight scenes did for me.
I was glad to see how cleanly it was shot allowing me to watch the scenes and get an idea of who is likely winning at any given time. Drago is used to fighting in a rugged boxing gym knocking out his opponents after like 3 quick hits. It gets you nervous about Creed standing up to the monster of a match. In reality, I was like are they even in the same weight class? But don’t worry, we get a montage of course where we literally watch the muscles form on Michael B Jordan’s body.
All in all, it is a solid film that pulls you in in the way these films do, but if you come in knowing that, you let the path take you. The family dynamics in all directions makes you really think, who should I really be rooting for? Check out Creed II in the movie theater – that’s how you know I give it a good rating – I said go to the movie theater. Creed II is in theaters now!
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